There have been 65 suspected cases of Covid-19 (coronavirus) tested in Ireland to date, however there are still no confirmed cases here, the Department of Health has said.
The virus, which has been officially named Covid-19 by the World Health Organization, has now killed over 1,100 people and infected over 45,000 - the vast majority of these in mainland China.
According to the department's chief medical officer, Dr Tony Holohan, Ireland "remains prepared for a confirmed case of Covid-19".
"The Irish health system is currently operating a containment strategy in line with global practice, and all our efforts are focused on identifying suspected cases as they arise and initiating measures to prevent onward transmission of the virus," he explained.
He said that anyone who has returned from China in the last two weeks, and who is experiencing symptoms of Covid-19, "is instructed to self-isolate and contact the health service via phone or email".
"The National Public Health Emergency Team continues to coordinate response efforts between the health service and other Government departments and agencies, to ensure a comprehensive response in the event of a confirmed case," Dr Holohan added.
HSE chief executive, Paul Reid, thanked frontline staff in the health service for dealing with this "emerging situation".
"All hospitals have plans in place to deal with any increase in demand due to a viral threat, including Covid-19. A lot of preparation work has been done and a range of options are being looked at to deal with all scenarios," he noted.
He said that over 4,800 personal protective equipment (PPE) packs have already been distributed to GP out-of-hours services, public health departments and GP practices, while a further 1,200 PPE packs were due to go out to GP practices on Tuesday.
"The National Ambulance Service also has detailed plans in place and is working closely with other agencies to ensure a co-ordinated response to possible cases," Mr Reid pointed out.
Meanwhile, according to Dr Cillian De Gascun, chair of the Coronavirus Expert Advisory Group, a sub group of the National Public Health Emergency Team, the group is continuing to monitor reported transmission events in the UK, Singapore, and Germany, "but the number of confirmed cases in the EU remains low".
Covid-19 is spread through contact and droplets, so good cough and sneeze hygiene, with regular hand washing, is the best way to keep well.
Good cough and sneeze hygiene helps to stop the spread of germs. People should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, and put the used tissue in a bin. If they do not have a tissue, they should cough or sneeze into their elbow or upper sleeve, not their hands.
For more information on Covid-19, click here.
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